The Indian women hockey team’s euphoria over their 1-0 win over Japan in the 5-6th place classification match was no ordinary classification tie – the stakes were really high as the winner stood a good chance of qualifying for the 2016 Rio Olympics as one of the best placed teams besides the semifinalists as at least three teams are looking good to achieve dual qualification – a team winning being the continental championship as well as sealing one of the three spots from the Hockey World League Semifinal Round.
And to put things in perspective, the Koreans gave India’s Olympic qualifying hopes a big boost by stunning 4th ranked New Zealand in the semifinals of the Hockey World League Semifinal Round in Belgium. Korea – the current Asian champions – are the first team to achieve dual qualification as they sealed one of the three spots from the Belgium leg of the World League semis, after playing in the final against the Netherlands. It may be recalled that the likes of Great Britain, China and Germany have also made the cut from the Valencia leg of the world league semis.
Netherlands are also all set to become the second team after Korea to achieve dual qualification by winning the European Championship happening sometime in August. Australia can become the third team to achieve dual qualification by winning the Oceania Cup in October. So in a scenario where, Netherlands and Australia attain dual qualification like Korea, 5th ranked USA – who finished 5th in the Valencia leg after pipping 15th ranked Spain – have assured themselves of an Olympic berth after Korea achieved dual qualification.
India needs to hope history repeats itself in continental tournaments
The European championship will be held in August and if the Dutch win it, India will become the next best team to make the Olympic cut – a big possibility since no teams apart from Korea appeared like beating the Netherlands. 10th ranked Japan can also make it if Australia win the Oceania Cup but they will have to wait for October when that event is held.
Even as we go gung-ho over India making the Olympic cut, two top sides – 3rd ranked Argentina and 4th ranked New Zealand will sweat over their qualification. Argentina will have to win the Pan American Games happening later this month and in case they lose to USA, the Americans will seal their Olympic berth and 15th ranked Spain, who lost to USA in the Valencia leg 5-6th place tie will come in the qualifying fray. New Zealand have always found it hard to beat Australia and if they are not able to win the Oceania Cup all their qualifying avenues will be closed.
One can take it as a guarantee that Netherlands and Australia will win the European Championship and Oceania Cup, which will mean India and Japan making the Olympic cut alongside USA. Of course, if Argentina cannot win the Pan American Games, it will offer a window for Spain to qualify.
For now, USA, India and Japan look really good to book the flight to Rio. From the Indian perspective, they will be keenly following August’s European Championship and egging on the Dutch to win it as it will put a seal of confirmation to India’s participation in the Rio Olympics.